As of the date of this writing, there have been a total of 71 movies and films that were made in my home town of Austin, Texas. These films and movies run the gamut from comedies to dramas, and from serious to silly.
The most famous, of course, is the “Texas Chain Saw Massacre” movie series. This series of horror movies started with the first film back in 1974. The incredibly violent story was filmed mainly in a then-quiet location near Round Rock (a small suburb of Austin) in and around an old farm located on Quick Hill Road. The project was produced and directed by Tobe Hooper, who also co-wrote the original movie with Kim Henkel. Neither of these gentlemen were very well known at the time.
The production’s original budget was a whopping $60,000! This, of course, forced the production team to use shortcuts wherever possible. The “stars” of this first “Massacre” movie in the series were not well know actors and actresses, and so were willing to work for much less money than any named star of that time. In addition, all of the actors were from in or near Austin and the Central Texas region. You would think being native to the area, they could take the heat! But that is not so. Read on.
The norm for daily production was to work long hours with few, if any, breaks. The team would work up to 16 hours a day, seven days a week in an attempt to get this film in the can (as they say) as quickly as possible in hopes of lowering the cost of all the equipment being used. This was incredibly exhausting to the entire production staff as well as to the actors and actresses. The weather at the time was your normal hot, humid Central Texas summer weather. The hottest day was July 26 when it hit 110 degrees. Ouch!
Most of the filming was done inside the old farmhouse. The house itself, having been built in the early 1900’s, did not have any air conditioning and the ventilation was said to have been horrid to nonexistent. The actor that played the starring role of Leatherface, (Thank you Wikipedia )
Once the filming was completed, it is said that editing and getting the final cut completed brought the entire cost of the movie to a total of a measly $300,000! The production company almost didn’t get a chance to make ANY money back on the film at all. The original movie was rated “X” due to the amount of violence and gore (and there is gore a-plenty). The movie was actually banned by the “British Board of Film Classification” and was only allowed to be played in theaters there in 1998, a full 24 years after filming was completed.
Of course, the film did open and premiere in Austin on October 1, 1974, and finally made the rounds of many thousands of theaters thanks to the false advertising of “this is a true story” being circulated at the time. And, of course, I have seen this movie and all 6 of the others in the “Texas Chain Saw Massacre” series. They are scary as heck to this day. And still a Halloween favorite of mine!